Written Answers. - Discussions with British Secretary of State.

Jim O'Keeffe


27 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on discussions with the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, on the upsurge of violence in Northern Ireland culminating in the recent massacre at Loughlinisland, County Down; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The murder of six persons by the UVF at Loughinisland, County Down, on 18 June was a shocking deed. I take this opportunity to reiterate my deepest sympathy to the families of those who died and my hope that those who were injured will make a full and speedy recovery. I pay tribute to the people of Loughinisland, whose dignity and restraint in the face of this appalling attack is an example to us all.

I discussed all aspects of the security situation with the Secretary of State at the meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 17 June. We were joined in these discussions by the Minister for Justice, the Minister of State with responsibility for security at the Northern Ireland Office, and by senior representatives of the two police forces. While it would not be appropriate to go into the substance of our discussions, the meeting provided an opportunity to review in detail the continuing threat posed by paramilitaries from both sides. The Conference focused in particular on the importance of preventing paramilitary attacks and of bringing those responsible to justice. The House can be assured that through the framework of the Anglo-Irish Agreement we will continue to co-operate closely in countering the violent activities of the paramilitaries and in ensuring that our co-operation on security remains as effective as possible.
I have said before in this House, and I repeat now, that everyone in Northern Ireland is entitled to lead his or her life in peace, free from the threat of murder or maiming by paramilitaries. I condemn totally the activities of groups which seek to achieve their ends by violence, from whatever side they come. Just as I have condemned Republican paramilitaries, whose campaign of violence has made a mockery of their declared objectives, so I condemn the murderous activities of the Loyalist paramilitaries, who have been responsible for more deaths than any other group over the last three years. There can be no justification, no excuse, no special pleading for these acts of violence. I can assure the House that the Government will continue to do all in its power to see violence brought to an end and to expedite a political way forward in Northern Ireland.